Harold’s Square Construction Update, 3/2019

24 03 2019

It seems we can move this one back into the under construction column? It’s been a weird few months.

The developers, L Enterprises (David Lubin) and Mcguire Development of Buffalo, parted way with Taylor the Builders, the construction manager, back in January. They were able to line up another construction manager in LeChase Construction of Rochester, which has done its fair share of work around Ithaca and Tompkins County. Issues with transferring control and insurance paperwork of the 300-ton crane, however, delayed the project’s construction by several weeks, but the project did finally resume in early March.

I can tell you that whole “craziness”, as project rep Vicki Taylor Brous put it, gave a lot of city staff and elected officials heartburn. Given the city’s recent policy of advocating for density and downtown development, a hulking, stalled steel skeleton was the type of thing that was going to really make any future project a difficult sell.

It was also very upsetting for neighboring business owners. The project has already created some frustration with its blockading of the Commons playground out of safety concerns. The construction, and lack thereof, created an unattractive nuisance, with people steering away from neighboring businesses and taking their money elsewhere. The abatement was shifted forward a year, but not without significant blowback from members of the general public who had taken the opportunity to air their grievances with the development team. The current plan is to have the office and retail space available for occupancy by the end of the year, with housing occupancy by spring 2020.

At the crux of the issue are claims by Taylor that the project had undergone significant changes and that Taylor wanted to be compensated for the late changes. Although downplayed at the time, it became clear in the months since that there were major programmatic and minor aesthetic changes. The programmatic change was the reduction of 30 micro units (for a new total of 78) to make way for an additional 10,000 SF of office space for an unspecified tech tenant, as mentioned in the revised IDA application. (For those curious, the rumor mill says it’s a growing local tech firm; 10,000 SF is about the right size for a 40-50 person operation). Most of its commercial spaces appear to still be on the market.

There have also been some substantial if overall minor aesthetic changes, partially as a result of transitioning some residential space back to commercial offices. Some of the metal panels are being replaced with a terra cotta exterior finish, elimination of a mechanical screen because the equipment was smaller than first anticipated, the addition of balconies on the corners, the elimination of two windows per floor on the south face in order to comply with International/NYS Building Code, and window revisions on the fifth floor for the new tenant.

The renderings at the end of this post were published in 2018. The designs are for the revisions that were reviewed by the planning board last month, with the exception of the fifth floor office tenants and changes to suit them. The only reasons I can come up for waiting to submit these changes, was that either they didn’t have to (as mentioned before, after approval, the circumstances required for re-approval are rather murky), or that they weren’t sure what was going to happen with the fifth floor and wanted to have all their revisions in one package to avoid further trips to the board. It’s not clear when they began negotiating with the tech tenant, and when Taylor started to have issues working with the developers.

Anyway, work has recommenced on the steel structure, as the eighth floor is built out. Since the upper floors have small floorplates, the building’s steel structure will likely top out before the start of summer. From there, it’s fireproofing, sprinkler systems, exterior and interior wall framing, rough-ins, sheathing, and all the fun stuff that makes a building begin to look like its final product.


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4 responses

24 03 2019
LW

I do not understand how a project gets the approval of the city and they seem to do whatever they want with the design, #of apts, whatever… once it is underway?????? End result is totally different from the first plan.

24 03 2019
B. C.

It’s a weird grey area in city code, and one that has caused issues before. Generally speaking, minor changes can be approved at the staff level, major changes require re-approval. Here, I suspect they maybe could have gotten away with staff approval with either program changes or exterior changes, but not both. It’s not city staff being nefarious, the code dates from the early 1970s and was deliberately vague in parts. But it merits a reexamination.

25 03 2019
CS PhD

Those balconies are a nice improvement to the design, at least. But what part of the NYS Building Code would require you to *remove* windows? If there’s some maximum number of windows allowed, how would they permit all those glass-curtain towers in New York City with floor-to-ceiling windows?

10 08 2019
Harold’s Square Construction Update, 8/2019 | Ithacating in Cornell Heights

[…] It looks like Northern Mast Climbers of Skaneateles has the subcontract for the exterior facade work, and interior furnishings (flooring, cabinetry, countertops, furniture, and appliances) will be supplied by Metzger Inc. of suburban Buffalo. Harold’s Square’s apartments are listed for rent online, but you can’t actually apply, and the data’s outdated anyway – it still says 108 units, but 30 microunits were eliminated for more office space. […]

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